One Function of Art

Michael Stuart Kelly

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One Function of Art

I found the following quote from Anaïs Nin on the Internet and it struck me just how much it aligns with Ayn Rand's purpose in writing fiction: to create the perfect man.

To be sure, Nin was not after the perfect anything. She just wanted to live and breathe. But for Rand to present her perfect people, she had to create environments where they could live and breathe.

According to Nathaniel Branden, after she created Atlas Shrugged, she liked that world so much, she stepped into it and never came back.

This is what I find parallel with the thought in the quote by Anaïs Nin:


I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me — the world of my parents, the world of war, the world of politics. I had to create a world of my own, like a climate, a country, an atmosphere in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living. That, I believe, is the reason for every work of art. 

-- Anaïs Nin

(From The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 5: 1947-1955.)


Man, the temptation to do the same is ever present in today's world.


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I found a quote for the dark side of this sentiment.

But it needs a different title: One Function of Propaganda.

It depicts the the lives of many in super-propagandized America.


..when one has no real life, one lives by mirages. It's still better than nothing.

--Anton Chekhov

(from Uncle Vanya)


I could write a whole book about what I see through this lens in the modern world and just scratch the surface.

But when I try to write about it, I always get to thinking about my own life in the middle of this mess. And then I am reminded of Nietzsche's quote about staring into the abyss and the abyss staring back.



It's a starting point, at least. Not much, but better than nothing. There is much work to do to turn this sucker around.


The Reduced Shakespeare Company (a comedy group)did an abridged version of Uncle Vanya. It depicts the extent--in reality, not in the story--of how dramatic most super-propagandized lives get in America.

But first, an overview.

Uncle Vanya is play about some people who live in Russia in the 1800s. A landowner (an old doctor with a young wife) is trying to figure out what to do with an estate he uses little. He wants to make it worth more, maybe sell it and invest the money. If he does that, he will have to get rid of the people who have lived there and cared for the estate for years.

All these people get together and bitch at each other for a time, but also interact in other ways like commenting the mundaneness of life as it is all around them. Vanya, a hothead, goes to shoot the landowner doctor in the end, but misses. They all settle down--decide to stay friends, but all are resolved to face the meaningless of life.

Here is the version performed by The Reduced Shakespeare Company:

"Are you Uncle Vanya?"
"I am."
[Gunshot sounds]



Like I said, it's a starting point.


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